Morrison government flouts law on Freedom of Information


Labor cited the responses to several of its FOI requests as examples of the government breaching the law.

Advisers to Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese sought documents from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as far back as August relating to media analysis and Question Time preparation, but they are still waiting for decisions.

One request was for a document provided to ministers after the last election that outlined the audience size for different media outlets, seen as guiding ministers on their media appearances.

In another case, Labor lodged questions about the handling of one of its FOI requests to government agency Austrac and obtained a series of emails that confirmed officials knew they were breaking the rules.

One email between Austrac officials in September said a supervisor “understood the consequences of not meeting the statutory deadline and indicated he was pretty unfazed by it”.

There were 38,879 requests under FOI across the Australian government last year, with 83 per cent of them seeking personal information and a majority of them lodged with the departments of Home Affairs, Human Services and Veterans’ Affairs.

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The Morrison government has also been accused of breaching the law by scaling back the Office of the Information Commissioner and the key position meant to oversee FOI law.

Labor shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said the breaches were typical of an “arrogant” government that did not like scrutiny.

“It sends police to raid journalists, it won’t answer questions in the Parliament, it shuts down questioning in senate estimates and does everything it can to stop the public finding out about what it’s up to,” he said.

“Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton love to say no one is above the law, but show complete contempt for their legal obligations to comply with freedom of information requests.”

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has launched a review of the Department of Home Affairs over its failure to meet standards in responding to requests.

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